Product Review: Ballard Extracts Vanilla [Dutch Baby Recipe]

Good Vanilla is hard to come by, no honestly, especially when it comes to extracts. A good porition of cheap Vanilla extracts and essences are made from Vanillin and not Vanilla. Vanillin, is often a by-product of whole Vanilla beans but some of it is produced from the bark of trees or is completely artificial. While it is often totally fine to use, and isn’t “bad” for you, it doesn’t get that pure Vanilla flavor that I think a lot baking or sweet recipes need.

Recently, while searching around Etsy I found a local company, Ballard Extracts, who produces plenty of tasty looking extracts, created with baking in mind. They were kind enough to hand deliver one of their extracts, Pure Handmade Vanilla, for me to try out. photo 3Their product listings boast organic sourced ingredients; extracts made from organic wheat alcohol using a cold extraction process. You may think of cold extraction more so when you think of cold press Olive Oil. Wikipedia states the following about the cold extraction process; being beneficial to the quality of the product:

“When high temperatures are applied the more volatile aromas are lost and the rate of oxidation is increased, producing therefore lower quality oils. In addition, the chemical content of the polyphenols, antioxidants, and vitamins present in the oil is reduced by higher temperatures.”

This is true for any cold extraction process and not just the cold extraction of oil. This process means that you are getting cleaner, crisper flavors when you purchase extracts from Ballard Extracts. I mean that, you get what you pay for with their Pure Handmade Vanilla Extract. Its naturally sweet, with a nice earthiness that you expect from high quality Vanilla. You know that really really good Vanilla gelato you had with those specks of Vanilla? Well… it tastes like that, pure Vanilla goodness. This Vanilla deserves to be highlighted, so I sat and pondered, what could I make that would showcase this wonderful Vanilla. Well, Dutch Babies of course!

Vanilla Dutch Babies

Image-1

2 tablespoons butter separated for your pans
1 tablespoon of melted butter for the batter
2 3/8 ounces all-purpose flour, about a heaping 1/2 cup
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon of Pure Handmade Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup whole milk or Half&Half – room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 pie pans for baking (glass is preferred)

Options for Toppings
– Confectioners Sugar
– Lemon Wedges
– Warm Pure Maple Syrup
– Whipped Cream
– Fresh Fruit Compote

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, place your pans in the oven after the preheat has finished, place a tablespoon of butter in each pan. After the butter has melted and the pans have heated, carefully take a paper-towel or silicone basting brush and evenly disrupted the melted butter.

2) Let your other melted butter cool slightly after melting. While waiting mix your vanilla and sugar into a paste like consistency. This will evenly distribute the vanilla flavor throughout the batter and infused the sugar with its flavor as well. Set aside.

3) Put the flour, vanilla sugar paste mixture, salt, milk, eggs and remaining tablespoon of melted butter into a food processor, blender (honestly I prefer a mixing bowl and my immersion blender for this) and blend for about a minute or less. You want the batter to be thin, and don’t worry if there are a couple small chunks.

4) Take batter and pour it evenly into the preheated and butter pans. For 15-25 mins bake the batter on the center rack of your oven. You want the ‘pancakes’ to puff up and get golden brown around the edges.

5) Cut into even ‘pie’ slices and top with the topping of your choice. I preferred confectioners sugar for this, to let the Vanilla shine.

Transparency Disclosure: Ballard Extracts was kind enough to provide these products for review. This review does not reflect the thoughts and opinions of Ballard Extracts and are my own.

You Should Start Using – Elk

So, to anyone that knows me, it is no surprise that I love game meat. My two favorite things to eat are Venison and Duck. However, it was a surprise to me, that Elk meat differs so greatly from Venison. To me it sounds like they would be similar in taste and texture, but I was wrong, so very wrong. Upon this realization I decide it would be best to bring in a far more expert opinion then my own.

Enter Sabrina, my Mescalero Apache, fix it with a damn craftsman-wrench friend. Sabrina cooks traditional Indian food and a pretty regular basis. For heaven’s sake, the woman still hunts for most of her meat. I figured it would be best to default to her, for all you Elk related know how.

Q: What do you want to look for when you are buying Elk?  –

A: There’s obviously a large difference between buying elk and hunting elk. When you hunt it, you know what to look for in your cow or bull. The health of the fur coat, how old they are, what their diet was like this year based on where your hunting ground is.

The thing about buying elk locally is that the majority of elk has been raised on pasture based farms instead of wild. That makes ensuring you get healthy, tender meat harder. You have to take into account how much grain, silage or concentrate those animals were fed and when, were growth promoting hormones used in production,ect. IF it was hunted and you’re getting it from a backwoods or immediate source; how do you know your elk isn’t going to be too gamey? Were they hunted for food tenderness instead of trophy quality?

Well – unless you hunt it – you don’t know any of those things.

Look for dark red almost wine colored meat. Ground elk will generally have even a darker hue like a port wine.

If it’s flank or steak it will be more like a rose but it should still be darker than beef. It should be smooth, with very little fat around the tendons, all the silver skin (the white connective tissue) should be removed. Think of someone who doesn’t know how to de-bone a fish and leaving the flesh all torn up. That’s the opposite of what you want. If they skinned it correctly it should be smooth.

Q: How does it differ from Venison?

Technically all elk, deer, caribou, antelope, moose – is all venison. BUT, Elk tastes different than deer in that it’s bolder with a mild sage or juniper flavor depending on the animals diet. It’s not as gamey because the animals hunting time is later in the beginning of the year so they’ve generally fattened up a bit (that being said it’s still a 97/3% ratio). If it does taste like deer meat that’s because the hunter didn’t properly get it cooled and skinned as fast as possible. Leaving it hot or leaving the hide on too long will cause its taste to become pungent.

 Q: Where do you recommend to source Elk from if you don’t hunt or aren’t able to?

A: Well if you Google it or go to the Ballard Market (local to us in Seattle), I guarantee  you’ll be disappointed in the quality or pay 1/8 of your 401k to some horrendous “buy exotic meats” butcher that charges by the lb. If it’s in the Seattle Met for a foodie taste ed op: don’t buy it. It’s going to be way overpriced, and geared toward hipsters that don’t know a dove from a duck call.

Your best bet is to:

  1. Go to your local farmers market, find the beef butcher and ask him if he knows anyone or has any. Go early on in the morning, get his best flank or tri-tip and that’ll get you more information.
  2. Bob the butcher at 4861 Rainier Ave South – you can order a week ahead once you know what steaks or fillets you want. They readily have frozen ground elk.

 Q: How do you recommend cooking Elk, what is the best method?

Brined Bitches. Brined.

Do yourself a favor and make a brined hash for breakfast out of elk meat and eat appropriately: as a carnivore.

Brined Elk Hash Recipe

Hash:
4-5 lbs hooved animal shoulder
Yukon gold potatoes
Yellow onion
Garlic
Parsley
Eggs

Brine:
½ cup sugar
2 c salt
3 tsp pink salt
Pickling spice

  • Make the brine: Add salt, sugar, pink salt and pickling spice to a large pot of water. Boil it to dissolve the salt and sugar then chill it in the refrigerator.
  • Submerge the shoulder in the brine, weighting it down with a plate or heavy object and let it sit for 4-5 days in the fridge.
  • After its done, rinse the meat
  • You can slow cook the shoulder in the oven or in a crockpot for 5-6 hours OR place in a pressure cooker at 10 lbs of pressure for 45 minutes until tender.
  • In the meantime boil the potatoes until tender then chop the onion, garlic, and potatoes for the hash.
  • When the corned elk is finished, chop it up and break it into pieces
  • Saute the onion and garlic in a pan until translucent
  • Add in potatoes, cook until they’re brown or to your liking.
  • Add in elk, parsley and salt/pepper until crispy
  • Serve with a sunny side-up egg
  • Enjoy the fact that you made yourself a correct god damned breakfast.

Note: Sabrina says, if you sub Venison for Elk: “It won’t taste as good, but sure.”

Get Pink Salt to Brine Here:Sherpa Pink Gourmet Himalayan Salt (5lb Bag Extra-Fine Grain)

 

You Should Start Using – Smoked Paprika

My husband was vegetarian for quite a while, and continued to be vegetarian until about 1 1/2 year ago. While I still ate meat, often I made entrees several times a week that were purely vegetarian. As I got more skillful on creating deep flavors in veggie dishes, we started making them weeknight standards, even after he started eating meat. One of the things I found created an intensely, nearly meaty flavor was smoked paprika.

Smoked paprika isn’t your ordinary paprika, you know the kind you dust over deviled eggs. Your standard store brand paprika is very mild, sort of bland even, and is more suitable to impart color to a dish or use as a garnish. Then you have sweet, bittersweet, hot, and other varieties of paprika. These paprika classifications are traditionally Spanish, as is smoked paprika. Though you can find Israeli, California and other regions producing these types of paprika. Then there is Hungarian Paprika which has its own sets of classifications/grades, ranging from sharp,  sweet, half-sweet, delicate, etc.

So, typically smoked paprika is Spanish, which makes sense. Spanish food tends to have a nice smokey flavor profile, especially in its paellas. The nice thing about smoked paprika is it, itself, can come in other flavor profiles, sweet or hot. I typically use sweet smoked paprika and that is what you will most likely find, out and about.  The Capsicum annuum peppers are dried slowly over an oak burning fire for several weeks. This results in a very smoky flavor that is build-able and not overwhelming.

I use smoked paprika in all my pork rubs and barbecue sauces when I make them from scratch. When I am cooking veggie entrees, I use it to flavor roasted potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and more. Roasting with smoked paprika imparts a lot of flavor and pumps up the color of the veggies themselves. The addition of it in Black Bean Soup and Potato Soup also, adds a welcome flavor profile, oaky and sweet. Finally, my absolute favorite, is adding it to baked Mac and Cheese with a little nutmeg.

Explore using smoked paprika in your dishes: Chiquilin Smoked Paprika Tin 2.64oz